The Party **

Frenemy party goers discuss hot-button topics that amount to little. 

Is it worth $10? No 

“The Party” is a confused movie that tries to be about many things and is effectively about none. At 71 minutes it’s too brief to take on themes such as infidelity, health care, female empowerment, and gay relationships with any kind of substance, and yet it touches on all those hot-button topics in a way that feels perfunctory rather than meaningful.

The drama is presented in black and white, which is a terrible idea for two reasons: 1) It will hinder the film’s box office prospects, and more importantly 2) The story is anything but black and white, anything but something that can lead to a definitive yes or no and right or wrong. Perhaps director Sally Potter intended to provide an omnipresent “gray area” for the characters to inhabit, but you can’t help but think a wide variety of colors would’ve reflected the story better given the myriad issues presented.

The actors do what they can with the material. Kristen Scott-Thomas (“Darkest Hour”) plays the adulterous Janet, who was just elected to be Great Britain’s Minister of Health. She’s unhappily married to Bill (Timothy Spall), who’s a heavy drinker and depressed. They’re hosting a dinner party.

If you think the marriage sounds dysfunctional, wait ‘til you meet their friends. April (Patricia Clarkson) and Gottfried (Bruno Ganz) are the first to arrive. He looks much older, they’re dating, and she apparently hates him, but that’s not a surprise because she seems to hate everyone and everything. She’s so tart-tongued and cynical that the idea of a filter would only inspire more invectives. Gottfried, on the other hand, is a peaceful healer who’s not fond of modern medicine. Why they are together is never explained.

Also joining the party are the couple Martha (Cherry Jones) and Jinny (Emily Mortimer), as well as Tom (Cillian Murphy), the husband of Janet’s co-worker. Throughout, you wonder why these seven people are friends. They don’t seem to hold one another in high regard, or enjoy one another’s company. In fact, it’s just the opposite. This is the world’s worst dinner party that never even gets to the dinner.

If the film is intended to be a critique of the current sociopolitical climate in Great Britain, the local commentary is lost on this Yank. Many of the themes, aside from a few lines about British health care, are universal rather than specifically British, but that’s not really the problem. The larger issue is that they’re so hastily developed that they fail to register, as if Potter (who also wrote the script) had a checklist of social faux pas to address and was determined to cram them all in. But you can’t do that with this little character development and this quick a pace, not to mention with no characters who’re easy to like.

As shot on a four-room set in a West London studio, the film feels more like it belongs on stage rather than the big screen. And perhaps on stage the drama will play better, scenes will be added, and it’ll work. But right now it doesn’t work at all.

Did you know?
The film was shot in largely chronological order in two weeks; all seven actors earned the same amount.

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